HENRY JAMES, American author was born (d. 1916); In a brilliant series of articles, endorsed by James’s biographer Leon Edel, Richard Hall has shown that James was in love with his brother, the Harvard philosopher William James.
This finally puts to rest the speculations that have ranged from (I kid you not) a severe, lifelong case of constipation to his having been hit in the nuts with a pump handle to explain why the famous writer seems to never have had a sex life.
From his journals and letters, it seems that James enjoyed close relationships of a romantic, even erotic, nature with several young men of his acquaintance. He may have remained in the closet due to that redoubtable and pesky Oscar Wilde, whose flamboyancy he abhorred, and whose scandalous trial drove most of gay society back to hiding their loves and lives.
In 1876, James met and fell in love with Paul Joukowsky, a young, handsome Russian painter. Although his time with Joukowsky was short-lived, the special friendships he enjoyed with other men would endure for many years. His attachment to Henrik Andersen, a young sculptor, generated an intensely erotic correspondence. James treasured his relationship with Andersen. This relationship provided him with a source of joy throughout his later life.
For many years Henry James has been the darling of graduate students and other masochists, almost everyone else being bored to tears by his crabbed prose. Here is Somerset Maugham on the subject: “I don’t think Henry James knew how ordinary people behave. His characters have neither bowels nor sexual organs. [In James’s books] people do not go away, they depart, they do not go home, but repair to their domiciles, and they do not go to bed, they retire.” Late in life, James seems to have fallen for a sculptor, thirty years his junior, but it is doubtful that anything remotely physical transpired. James was seventy-two when he finally rusted.